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Part 3: Feeding Infants, Young Children and Adolescents  >  Food for Adolescents



General Principles

  • Too much anxiety about your teenager’s diet is likely to cause more problems than help her in inculcating healthy food habits.
  • Do have a general discussion about diet with your ‘young friend’. She may be more receptive to advice from your family physician or her paediatrician. I purposely used the words ‘young friend’. Your teenager is more likely to respond to your suggestions if you treat her with respect.
  • I am for regular mealtimes. I am against fast foods or junk foods. But I know that sometimes I too, have such foods. And at 67, I am in good health. We do not have to be fanatical. But we should know, and so should our young friend, that when we go to a fast food restaurant, we are not likely to get food which is ideal for our body. But if, during the day, or even during the course of the week, we remember to also have leafy or raw vegetables, fruits, and any whole grain preparations, we can significantly minimise the harmful effect of such foods.
  • Teenagers should learn (and so should we) that fruits (fresh as well as dry), vegetables (leafy, raw, yellow, red and others), sprouts, whole grain preparations, nuts, dahi and paneer make better snacks than soft  drinks, wafers, biscuits, cake, pastries, candy and chocolates: The latter mainly supply calories with relatively less essential nutrients. Many teenagers do not realise that cola drinks contain caffeine that can be addictive. Soft drinks also contain extra phosphorus that interferes with absorption of calcium from our diet.
  • Fats are essential for our body including our nervous system. Teenagers do need fat for adequate calories. Though polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are grouped under ‘good fats’, we also need the saturated or the ‘bad’ fats. In fact, one-third of our fats can come from the latter. A combination of ghee, peanut oil and mustard oil is used in many Indian homes. I recommend it. The type of fats that should be avoided are the partially hydrogenated fats available as vegetable vanaspati. These are also the ones most commonly used by fast food joints. Polyunsaturated fats are found in sunflower oil, fish and almonds; monounsaturated in peanut oil, peanuts, peanut butter and cashew nuts; and saturated fats come from a milk source (butter, ghee, cheese), egg yolk, coconut oil, palm oil, meat, chicken and chocolate. The best thing to do is to use a variety of vegetable cooking oils from mustard seed, sunflower, groundnut, and safflower among others. Equally important is physical activity, as that too, increases the ‘good’ cholesterol that protects the heart.
  • While younger children can have 3 eggs a week, teenagers with a family history of premature heart disease should be given egg only once a week.
  • Too much fat, especially the saturated type, can lead to problems later in life, including coronary heart disease, and so should be avoided.
  • For energy during sports events or otherwise, ‘instant energy’ promised by manufacturers of glucose drinks is a bad bargain. Banana, the favourite of tennis champions, should be our choice. During sports and athletic events, young people can lose a lot of water and salts. Let them have enough liquids before any intense activity and have a small amount of the same throughout the event. A healthy way of replacing potassium salts is by taking potassium-rich fruits like oranges and bananas.
  • Teenagers do not need extra vitamins, iron, calcium, and protein preparations for healthy growth. They need to get enough food because of their rapid body growth, including the growth of their endocrine glands, which secrete several kinds of hormones. If the diet contains enough of fruits, vegetables, pulses, sprouts, nuts, whole grain and dairy products, all the requirements of these nutrients can be met.
  • In the past, too much stress was given to getting protein and other nutrients, including iron, from meat and eggs. Vegetarians should note that all the essential requirements can be met if our diet includes the so-called ‘good foods’ mentioned above. In families that eat too much meat, it is recommended to cut down the same and complement the diet with enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

7 March, 2016

Part 3
Feeding Infants, Young Children and Adolescents
Feeding the Newborn
Feeding Young Children
Food for Adolescents
The Food Pyramid
Healthy Food Habits
Guide to Child Care
1 Pregnancy, Childbirth ...
2 The Growing Years
3 Feeding Infants, ...
4 Keeping Your Child Healthy
5 Keeping Your Child Happy
About Dr. R. K. Anand

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